I’ve been reading more than just my favorite Swedish crime novelists in the last month. I’ve tried more than one true crime book and a new book by Elizabeth LaBan which I think gets categorized as women’s fiction. The result is that I want to get back to mysteries, I think: true crime makes me feel too much of a gawker, and this particular LaBan book made me yearn for a conflict that did not involve the two main characters not really communicating with each other.
My latest true crime audiobook was The Good Nurse: A True Story of Madness, Medicine, and Murder by Charles Graeber. It’s about nurse Charles Cullen, who is allegedly the most prolific serial killer in the United States though he has admitted to a much smaller number of murders. He worked at a number of hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, left after suspicious incidents at a number of hospitals, and finally admitted to killing a number of patients at more than one hospital. The most in-depth part of the story was about what the hospitals did and didn’t do when they suspected Cullen of being connected to a number of deaths, not the story of why Cullen murdered so many patients. I skipped over a good chunk of the Afterword, which recounted the legal saga of Cullen trying to get permission to donate a kidney while he was in prison. It felt a bit too gawkerish to me. I basically turned to Wikipedia to find out if the donation went through and finished the book.
After Cullen I needed to read a book without any murders, so I picked up The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan. It’s a book about a struggling mother adjusting to parenting two kids and moving to a new city where her husband, a newspaper restaurant critic becomes increasingly paranoid about preserving his and his wife’s anonymity. The setpieces of Sam, the critic, in disguise where in part fascinating and in part ridiculously funny, but ultimately I was frustrated with the conflict in the book boiling down to the couple not talking to each other. They talked around each other, and I tend to gravitate toward stories that do more than that.
Disclosure: I received a review copy of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife from the publisher.